The Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), the Support to National Malaria Program (SuNMaP) , UNICEF, and a whole host of other acronymed organizations are rolling out the largest ever distribution of bednets in Africa over the next two years, and have chosen to integrate RapidSMS into their program for real-time monitoring and tracking of nets as they travel across the country for the pilot in Kano state.  Just the pilot program, encompassing a half of one of Nigeria’s 36 states, looks to distribute over two-million insecticide treated nets, which, in layman’s terms, is “a whole lot”.

We’re thrilled to be working on this project, and the enthusiasm we received from the local team on our system was extremely satisfying.  UNICEF Innovations Group and Dimagi just completed facilitating a 4-day  workshop in Abuja that provided an overview of RapidSMS at its use.

The workshop consisted of an extremely diverse group of people, including higher-ups working for various government agencies, UNICEF staff assisting in the operation, university students from Lagos, and Abuja, and people we met on the Internet.

That’s right people we met on the Internet.

Ok, technically we didn’t meet them.  Evan Wheeler, one of our colleagues working for UNICEF did.  Evan was “researching the local programming scene” and through a series of popular and local social networks somehow got in touch with two developers based out of Lagos and convinced his supervisors to invite them to the workshop.  Think “Tweet tweet.  Cory is off to Abuja to learn about RapidSMS!”

So what was the result?  Well they learned Python over the weekend, took a crash course in Django, and within two days they were churning out a brand-new AJAX interface to RapidSMS that enabled real-time testing of any RapidSMS application in the confines of a web browser.  In non-programming terms, that means making it a whole lot easier for developers and non-developers alike to learn and work with RapidSMS.  Tim Akimbo’s new code was demonstrated in one of the modules before the workshop was even over!  Needless to say, everyone is trying their hardest to get these guys to continue working on the project now that the workshop’s over…

So, as we continue to think about how the heck we’re going to assist in managing and tracking the distribution of trucks, people, coupons, and millions of malaria nets across Nigeria, someone can pick up a computer in New York and somehow find an amazing programmer in a city with 8 million or so people and convince them to work with us one week later.

Now that’s how you get local ownership of an open source project.

Below are some photos from the workshop.

Evan walking the programmers through some code
Evan walking the programmers through some code
Tim (one of the guys we met on the internet) showing the other developers some tricks.

Tim (one of the guys we met on the internet) showing the other developers his new tricks.